Here are some qualities to look for in a sponsor. I have set the standard high since this is a very important relationship for you and your recovery. You may not be able to find someone with all the qualities I suggest due to many factors including the size of your town, number of people who attend your meetings and others. So, like I said I am setting the standard high due to the importance of a sponsor—you want the best person to help you, don’t you? But, you may not be able to find someone exactly fitting my suggestions. Don’t worry too much about that. These suggestions are just to give you an idea on what to look for. OK, so let’s dig in to this topic.
First, let me say, you need a sponsor. Not working with a sponsor is a recipe for disaster in your recovery. Also, you don’t have to take the first person who comes along. You have the right to choose the best person for your sponsor.
My suggestions for a sponsor:
Same sex as you. A sponsor of the opposite sex just leaves the door open for too many problems. You will be sharing a lot with this person and you may not share as openly with someone of the opposite sex. Also, recovery is hard enough without adding the complications of a relationship. The intimate sharing that will probably occur as your work through the steps may lead to some confusing emotions and connections with a sponsor of the same sex.
Someone who has worked the 12 Steps for themselves. You want someone who is very familiar with the steps and has worked them and lived them for themselves. Reading about the steps is not enough…you want a sponsor who lives them. You wouldn’t let a surgeon do open heart surgery on you if he had only read a book about it and never performed that surgery before. Even better would be someone who has helped another person through the 12 Steps but that might be hard to find in some remote areas. But you have a right to expect a lot from the person who will be your recovery coach.
Someone with at least 2 years of healthy recovery. You want someone who has some solid experience in recovery. But there are two parts to this…time alone is not enough. I have had clients who have been “sober” for a long time but their life is a mess and they are constantly struggling with their addiction, they have never completely worked the steps, and they are very negative in meetings, etc. You might hear them referred to as a “dry drunk.” Time alone is not the answer. You want someone who is “healthy” in their recovery. They have worked the steps, they have not switched to another addiction, their life is stable and well-balanced. No one is perfect but some are better candidates for sponsor than others. You have the right to look for the best available person.
Someone you are compatible with. Don’t misunderstand and think I mean someone who will be easy on you. I mean someone you will be able to work with and listen to even when they are telling you something that you don’t want to hear. The important part here is that you will listen and respect the person even if they are saying something you don’t like. This is vital. If you don’t feel that way, that you are compatible and able to work together then this is not the sponsor for you.
Someone who is available to you. You need someone who will be able to take your call when you really need to talk with them. Some people are so busy they may not make good sponsors.
Someone you go to meetings with. This is a suggestion but not always possible. If possible, I recommend someone from your “home group.” I have known people who’s sponsor not only attended a different home group but they lived in a different community. This makes it hard to have a healthy and consistent relationship with your sponsor.
Someone who believes in you and your ability to recover in the program. You need someone conveys the value of the program and believes in your ability to be successful in recovery.
Well, these are my suggestions as you look for a sponsor.
The relationship you have with your sponsor is a very important factor in determining the health of your recovery.
Tim Gray, MA, CADC
Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. 20 years of experience as therapist working with mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. I am very passionate about living a balanced, healthy life in recovery since I know the benefits in my life and struggles with additive behaviors.